You know, for all the Disney running I do, I am not a “running in costume” sorta guy.
Don’t get me wrong now, I love Halloween. As North Americans, pound for pound it’s our coolest holiday. Yes, even cooler than Arbor Day, so cool your jets. The only time in the year you (as an adult) are allegedly “allowed” to play dress-up. So that’s all good. And running? If you haven’t figured out my passion there, you’re either new to Hokeyblog or you haven’t been paying attention. So to those in the former category: Welcome to this Happy Place! Now that said, when I registered for the 2013 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon, I was convinced that, since running in costume is part of the fun, I’d probably end up as some sort of superhero. And my favorite has always been Robin; when I was a kid and a madcap superhero/comic book geek, the red-and-yellow acrobatic partner to the Dark Knight was always my favorite. Plus I had an older brother and he always got to be Batman. So I got used to Robin real quick.
But it wasn’t meant to be. I decided to go with the flow and join up with my FIT mates as a bumble bee. And I was cool with that too, because quite frankly when it comes to costume making I am (a) notoriously cheap, and (b) ridiculously lazy. My entire costume consisted of a yellow tech shirt with black Duck Tape pasted across, black running shorts, $3 antenna bought at the local Halloween store, some yellow spray-on hair dye, and black makeup on my nose. I think I spent more on my on my last lunch at La Granja… and I had a coupon!
I’m good with it 🙂
So Boots and I left our Sunrise abode early Saturday on the morning of October 26th, and merril ymade our way down to Parrot Jungle Island, right off the MacArthur Causeway in Miami Beach. The plan was for her to drop me off at PJI and then go park near the Finish Line. This seemed to make Good Solid Sense to both of us, and we left early enough to get there in time for the 6:00 AM FIT group pics. Well that’s what we thought. By the time we got to the PJI exit off the MacArthur, it was SLAMMED. Traffic was barely moving, and it was uncomfortably close to 6:00. After sitting for awhile I said “Screw it,”, kissed Boots goodbye, got out of the car and started walking. I figured it wouldn’t be THAT long a walk to the Start Line, right? More like a half-mile. I walked, then jogged lightly, not wanting to strain something that close to the race, but I didn’t make it on time and missed the group pics. BUMMER! But at least I got to hang out for some post-group-pic pics and chat it up with some of my buddies.
And man oh man people really went all-in on the costuming. Besides our sea of endless bumblebees (plus a few ladybugs and one El Chapulín Colorado), there were plenty of superheroes, Miley Cyruses, cavemen, dudes in drag, women in skimpy outfits, pirates, two Tetris pieces, Hogwarts wizards and witches, zombies, Jedis, and everything else in between. To get a better look at how the race brought out the best in its costumed participants, take a look at their Facebook album. Pretty neat stuff.
By the way, how do you know that racing is predominantly a female-dominated sport? By checking out the lines at a pre-race restroom area. Not porto-potties, but actual men’s and women’s bathrooms. The women’s line looked to be about 15 minutes long. Dudes? Walk right in, brah! As it occurs at county-fair concerts and grammar rodeos, more than a few women jumped ship into the dude’s line. No biggie.
After taking care of business and grabbing some water from the water station, the countdown began and we lined up into position. I dialed up my “Halloween Race Tunes” playlist on Spotify, set my Endomondo to track my progress, downed a 5-Hour Energy, and as we got the Go-For-Launch I punched up the Crossing The Start Threshold song of the day (“Black Sunshine” by White Zombie) and just after 6:30AM I was off on-an-ever so spooky 13.1 Halloween adventure!
First off let’s take a look at the race course, courtesy of Google Maps and my Endomondo satellite tracking:
You pretty much couldn’t ask for a more scenic course in South Florida, and the weather was plenty agreeable. The start line temperature was about 70 degrees, but with reasonable humidity and a super cool breeze blowing. Nothing hot or muggy with a cooling 6mph wind to keep you going strong. This made for one great day of running, and I needed it. My strategy was simple: this was not so much a race but a 13.1 mile training run. I’ve spent the last few months doing my long runs at 10:1 intervals (10 minutes running, 1 minute walking). Before then, I always trained at 5:1 and raced at 6:1. My goal for this race was to just try 10:1’s at a Half Marathon distance and see how I’d hold up. The longest I had ever done at that interval before was 10 miles, so this would be a bit of a challenge. So I made a conscious decision to not push myself too hard. This was to be a slow-n-easy run.
And man, at least I got the first part right…
The first three miles were pretty nice and easy. It was still plenty dark out, and the opening stretch out from Parrot Jungle Island was fairly cramped. As usual there were plenty of “middle of the road, four abreast” walkers, which caused some visible frustration among some runners, but at this point you have to take everything in stride. I kept my run at an easy steady pace and enjoyed the scenery. And MAN was there scenery. After we circled around onto the MacArthur, it was two miles of Palm & Star Islands on our left side, and the Port of Miami on our right. The Port housed two cruise ships gleaming brightly in the early morning darkness, and even some Port of Miami Police boats cheering on over their loudspeakers.
Yeah that picture stinks, but I wanted to give you an idea of the what was going on at the Port. Meanwhile, my 10:1’s were proceeding at their usual slow training speed, averaging around a 10:30 min/mile. While that’s not ideal for a race, for a training run that was more than fine. My goal was just to maintain it around that level. My spirits were certainly high and I was feeling good.
Just after Mile 3 the causeway ended at Alton Road. Here the course took an interesting turn, heading South on a broad walkway running parallel to Alton, overlooking the intracoastal. And of course, a typical Miami D-Bag Moment occurred. Apparently two yutzes decided that, even though it was now around 7AM on the morning of a race, that they simply DESERVED to walk smugly against race traffic, ON the course, holding up their COFFEE proudly, and not getting out of the way of ANYONE. People were suddenly dodging these two empty meatsacks at the last minute, because they wouldn’t budge. I distinctly heard someone yell out, “GET OFF THE F***KING COURSE, A**HOLES!!” Whether or not this was your intrepid host will be left as a mystery of the ages…
*ahem* Moving right along, the course followed the walkway as it curved East and we passed mile 4. By this time morning was breaking and I was glad I hadn’t forgotten my sunglasses. The costume was still mostly holding together; antenna were still there, the tape hadn’t fallen off, and the make-up was only mildly running down my face. So we were still in business. We passed the (EXTREMELY OVERRATED) Smith & Wollensky steakhouse and finally turned North just before we reached the South Pointe Pier. After a few minutes on the winding concrete trail we finally made it to the most maligned portion of the run:
THE BEACH RUN
There actually wasn’t supposed to be a beach run. Unfortunately, last-minute construction forced the City of Miami Beach to give the Race Organizers a “take it or leave it” situation: either run a portion of the race on sand, or call it off. So alas, s**t happens. No biggie. But while the last-minute email told us that we would be running on “hard-packed sand”, it was really anything but, and that meant we had to expend 60% more effort on our running for about a half-mile between miles 4.5 and 5 (and coming back again between miles 11 and 11.5). At least it was a BEAUTIFUL morning out on the beach. I trekked along, purposefully slower; I didn’t want to wear myself out maintaining pace this early into the run. Neither did I want to injure myself. At least Boots was there waiting with her camera, and caught some excellent pictures of a most bizarre-looking figure in melting make-up and bee stripes that were peeling off his shirt:
After a quick smooch of encouragement I soldiered on, and just before Mile 5 we were back on concrete, running northbound along the South Beach promenade, with Ocean Drive on our left and the cool Atlantic on our right. Righteous! I picked up the pace a bit, and it showed: the Lap 5 split, where I was running on sand for half of the time, averaged a 10:58 min/mile, whereas Lap 6 (now on concrete) dropped down to 10:13. I was trying to make up some time, but I think I got a bit overzealous. No matter. We were back in the game, baby! Continuing north, the concrete promenade extended for another 1.5 miles until it turned into the Boardwalk, and this was the next big bottleneck of the race. The boardwalk was extremely narrow to begin with, and since there was a turnaround at the end of it that meant that for the duration of the run there would be runners on both sides, going to and coming from the turnaround. PLUS there were non-racers casually gallivanting about as well. This is not a complaint, as everyone knew this going in, and it was to be expected. I found myself basically “trapped” behind the 2:20 pace group, so I settled into a pace and basically ran with them for the 1.4 mile course on the Boardwalk. Even with my 10:1 intervals, I managed to keep up with them, although I was running a bit slower than before.
Despite the bottlenecking, I actually enjoyed this portion of the run, perhaps more than any other. There was a sense of serenity mixed with close camaraderie going on. Plus, the turnaround meant you could see your buddies both coming and going, and there was a ton of FIT high-fiving going on! So shout outs to everyone I saw: Kevin, Jose, Sarah, Tina, Brett, Rich, Mark, Marci T, Vivian, Matt, Jamie, Cass, Audrey, Cat, Gay, Julie, Pat, Bruce, and everyone else whose names eludes me right now because I am not so mentally spiffy this close to Thanksgiving. (?)
Well! After our Boardwalk excursion ended, we were back on concrete, heading South. My pace on the Boardwalk had averaged around 10:40 min/mile, so I imagined I would pull ahead again now that the course had opened up a bit. Boy was I in for a shock. At about the 8.25 mile mark we hit Lincoln Road and detoured West, past Collins and Washington and directly onto the Lincoln Road Mall. This took us on a 1.4 mile “out and back” trip, running down the length of the mall almost to (but not quite) reaching Alton Road, and back again to the Promenade to continue our trek back to the Finish Line.
The Lincoln Road run, for some reason, utterly depleted me of energy. I don’t know if it was the intervals, the pace, or what, but as I headed West past shops, cafes, onlookers, street cleaners, and honking traffic, my pace dropped to an 11 min/mile going up and then 11:27 coming down. Schnikies… At one point I had to duck into the Starbucks to use their restroom, but alas! The men’s room was out of commission. Unfortunately there was another Miami D-Bag moment of the day, when a woman waiting for her coffee simply wouldn’t move out of the way as I was walking towards the rear of the store. That was HER aisle, and none shall pass. By the time I got up to her she still hadn’t budged and I grunted “EXCUSE ME”. She gave me a look and moved aside with a huff. By the time I saw the restroom was closed I was so annoyed I just turned around and exited the store angrily. This time, she got out of the way. Of course.
But that minor annoyance aside, I wasn’t going to let anything get me down. I was tiring, but soldiered on. There also was a HUGE crowd of people lined up at the Apple Store, for some such tchotchkes or whatever. As I ran past them I announced, “Hey, you all REALLY didn’t have to come out to support me, but THANKS!!” and that got a big round of cheers and applause. OK, maybe I did have to showboat a little for some crowd support, but I’ll take it! It did give me something of a mental boost. And I needed it. I was slumping along. I was reaching the 10-mile point, still doing 10:1 intervals, slowing down maybe but with enough fuel in the tank to make it to the Finish Line. What DID dawn on me was that I wasn’t ready to do 10:1 intervals competitively. I still needed to build up my stamina at that level. I had made strides since August, but I still wasn’t there yet.
After reaching the promenade, I passed the 10-Mile mark and took solace in the comfort that there was only a short 5K to go. For a while I seemed to get my mojo back; during the 11th lap I actually dropped my min/mile by about 15 seconds. Not a whole lot, but I was moving. Soon we passed Mile 11 and were back adjacent to Ocean Drive, as I mentally prepared myself for Endgame. And by Endgame, I meant returning back for another round of BEACH RUNNING! My min/mile plummeted accordingly, as the soreness and energy depletion of the run, combined with the soft beach sand dropped my pace to 11:49 during the 12th Lap. You could see the looks of exhaustion (and on many, frustration) on the faces of fellow runners, but people kept moving. I saw Boots again, who was busy snapping pictures of all FIT bumblebees as well as the more interestingly-attired runners on the course, and I ran over for yet another quick smooch of encouragement.
She later told me that all the beach runners looked like they were MISERABLE! Truth be told, while it wasn’t the easiest part of the race — especially towards the end, when you’re already starting to wind down — I didn’t think it was that awful. It certainly wasn’t something I was altogether prepared or ready for, so all I could do was drop my pace and just enjoy the view. You certainly couldn’t have asked for a better one. It was a beautiful day out there.
Soon enough we were back on concrete, and the course continued to wind in a loop around South Pointe Park. This included a bit of a hilly area around the park center, but it was a very minor incline at best. Around Mile-12 we were back on the same walkway we ran on earlier that morning, only heading West now, and mighty close to the Finish Area. Why, we could even hear it from there. Which meant only one thing: we were only mere moments away from the Finsh Line, right?
Well duhr — we had only just passed Mile 12. Still another 1.1 miles to go, but this little fake-out (you could see the Finish Line mere steps away) was a tad demoralizing. Back down we went on the walkway as it curved north, past Monty’s, for about another half-mile until we turned around headed back for our final stretch of the race. I knew going in that doing 10:1’s for 13 miles was going to really deplete the tank, but I’m surprised at how slow I’m going. My pace during the last mile was around the 11:19 range, which wasn’t fast but still about 30 seconds/mile faster than what I was doing on the sand and incline. In the end, there was no mighty hurrah, no big finish. I simply kept going, made that final turn, and crossed the Finish Line. Strong, upright, and injury-free.
My total time was 2:25:06, which would have been (for me) a very disappointing race time, but agreeable as a new-interval training time. To put that in perspective that’s three seconds slower than when I ran my first Half Marathon nearly two years ago, and a full 18 minutes slower than the Publix A1A Half I ran just this past February. Nonetheless, I knew that (a) I was never racing, just training at a slower pace, (b) There were plenty of bottlenecks between the sand and the boardwalk, and (c) 10:1 intervals are nothing to take lightly. So I’m not worried or upset about my time. Nor am I happy with it. As far as I’m concerned, my time is irrelevant. This run was for a bigger purpose, to see if I could go a full 13.1 miles while maintaining my intervals. I did. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. So I’ll take a victory there.
While it may seem I was focused on the negative aspects of the run, I came away from the 2013 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon with mostly positive vibes. The sand run was last minute and couldn’t be helped, and nothing short of an act of God can do anything about rude Miami D-bags walking onto and meandering about a race course like they own the place. And that Finish Line fake-out? (Sorry, you got one more mile to go!) Hmm… If I had one genuine complaint, it’s that a few of the water stations were inadequately staffed. At some stops, people were waiting upward of 30 seconds for water or Powerade. Everything else, though, flowed very well. The course was scenic, the pre-race was well-staffed and energetic, the volunteers were friendly, the support and friendship of my FIT buddies was awesome, and there was plenty of replenishment at the Finish Line. Although for the love of GOD, do not drink the chocolate coconut water. It tasted like a sneaker! Still though, how can you complain when you end up with a medal as cool as this:
The rest of that picture is thankfully lost to oblivion…
Well there you have it, the 2013 Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon. I enjoyed the run and would definitely do it again, although hopefully the sand running issue is just a one-off. Maybe next year I can finally dress up as Robin, and master the 10:1 interval to the point where I can finally break that sub-2 barrier. It’s good to have goals, right? Or something. The next race is the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, November 9th, so with this race in the books our running season is in full swing! Here’s the video: